Whoops! Looks like it’s time for a refresher course in potty training 101. You might feel really frustrated when your puppy has an accident, especially when it was already successfully housebroken.
Luckily, puppy potty training regression is a common issue, and there are a few helpful strategies for getting your dog back on track.
What is puppy potty training regression?
Regressing in potty training means your puppy backslides in the potty training basics. Your pup has more frequent accidents in the house, whether urinating or pooping.
It’s not fun for owners who must clean up the mess (especially if you have carpet in your house), and your dog won’t feel good about it either.
What causes this backslide?
A few common explanations for puppy potty training regression include brain development, small bladders, and stress.
Puppy brains are still growing
Puppies are learning a lot: potty training, crate training, basic commands, and their family’s daily routines.
Like children, puppies don’t have great memories, and sometimes all the new things they learn become disorganized.
Potty training regression is especially common for dogs aged four months to one year; this period is akin to human adolescence, when our brains are developing rapidly, and we’re more likely to engage in troublesome behaviors.
Young dogs, not unlike human teenagers, benefit a lot from a consistent structure and positive reinforcement.
Between dogs, peeing is a sign of submission.
If you’re too assertive or get angry with your puppy, it may be peeing as a way of diffusing a possibly threatening situation.
Alternatively, if you add a new dog to the house, your pup might be trying to appease it.
Puppies need more bathroom breaks
An adult dog has a bigger bladder than a small puppy, so younger dogs need more opportunities to go outside and relieve themselves.
Most dogs can wait between six-to-eight hours between bathroom breaks, but puppies may need to be let out five or more times a day.
If your pup knows it can depend on frequent trips outside, an accident indoors is less likely.
Stress and anxiety
Puppies experiencing potty training regression may be suffering from separation anxiety or another new stressor. Consider any new life factors that could negatively impact your dog’s mental health.
Have you moved into a new house? Is there a new member of the family or a new pet? Are there any uncommon loud noises (i.e., fireworks or a baby crying)?
If so, try to find ways to help your furry family member adjust to the new situation. Lots of exercise, CBD treats, and stimulating toys can be helpful for a dog that feels anxious.
Tips for fixing potty training regression
Clean up prior accidents well
Anyone that’s ever taken a dog for a walk knows that dogs love to pee on things. By marking areas with their scent, dogs are asserting dominance.
They’ll often pee on the same areas to strengthen their claim on a specific territory.
So, if your dog has had an accident indoors, be sure you deep-clean the area.
If your dog can pick up the scent, that could encourage the canine instinct to continue marking that spot.
Stay positive and calm
Scolding or punishing dogs for having an accident indoors is never the way to go.
This can cause increased anxiety and stress in your dog, which could exacerbate the issue.
Instead, lean on positive reinforcement tactics like treats and praise when your dog does something right, like when it goes to the bathroom outside.
If you think your puppy is peeing to communicate submission, try calmly walking away from the situation instead of showing disapproval.
Be consistent and patient
If you’ve successfully potty-trained your puppy once, you can certainly do it again. Consistency is critical; you may need to reestablish your basic routines.
Try to take your puppy outside for potty breaks around the same time each day (such as early morning, mid-morning, afternoon, dinnertime, and right before bed).
Let your dog out before breakfast and dinner, so it associates using the restroom outside before earning a scoop of kibble. Keep meal times consistent, and ensure your dog has fresh water. Take your puppy to the exact locations outside as well.
Soon it will recognize favorite trees or patches of grass along the walk route, further encouraging a connection between potty breaks and being outside.
Hire a dog walker
If you think your puppy’s accidents are related to extended time indoors, consider hiring a dog sitter or dog walker to let your puppy out during the day.
This is especially important for dog owners who work long hours. Your puppy must have frequent bathroom breaks. Even adult dogs should never go longer than eight hours without a trip outside.
When to call the vet
While potty training regression is a pervasive issue, be sure to rule out any potential medical causes.
If a housebroken, otherwise healthy adult dog suddenly has frequent accidents indoors, it’s worth calling the vet.
Frequent urination can be a symptom of a bladder infection, kidney problems, diabetes, parasites, or canine dementia.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) commonly cause indoor urination, especially for female dogs. Luckily, while UTIs are uncomfortable, they’re usually cured quickly with antibiotics.
If you take your puppy to the vet and learn that your little one is perfectly healthy, you can feel confident that the potty training woes are linked to a nonmedical concern.
Focus instead on reestablishing your puppy’s routine and providing extra bathroom breaks. You might consider keeping a journal to track when your puppy has an accident; it can help identify patterns contributing to the problem.
Final thoughts on puppy potty training regression
The bottom line is that puppy training isn’t easy, and there may be a time that dogs regress.
While indoor accidents are undeniably painful, remember that your pup isn’t doing it on purpose.
Buy an extra strength cleaner with enzymes and a bag of your puppy’s favorite treats.
Your dog will get back on track in no time.